Association of Blind Citizens
Creating Opportunity One Step at a Time

New! Stride for Light 5K Walk

Bookmark the ABC Homepage!

Recommend this page to a friend


Join ABC's Circle of Support!

Contribute to the Vision Quest Fund!











20/20 Access: Our Online Newsletter

In Focus: Our Monthly Radio Program
(Real Audio)







 

 

 
The Advocate: Our Online Newsletter



THE ADVOCATE - FALL/WINTER 2002/2003 EDITION

In this issue:


President's Notebook

by John Oliveira

As we approach the final weeks of 2002, I feel that it is appropriate to give you a verbal snap shot of the Association of Blind Citizens accomplishments. ABC was proud to be able to sponsor a braille reprint totaling 1000 copies of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. This sponsorship was well received and I understand that the 1000 copies have been sold out. ABC's commitment to creating opportunities for blind children did not end there. We were able to support 70 blind children at various camps throughout the country and we have received pictures of some of the children that we sponsored. One of those pictures appears on ABC's home page on the website.

Our expanded college scholarship program is obviously well received judging from the number of applicants. These scholarships are being used by blind persons to assist them in achieving some very important personal goals. ABC also sponsored the first beep ball team from the New England area to attend a national tournament. Beep ball has been an ongoing two-year recreation project sponsored by ABC to give blind individuals an opportunity to participate and compete in a competitive sport for the blind. ABC funded 90% of the Boston Renegades operating budget during the 2002 season, this makes beep ball an extremely expensive project to operate. However, the fact remains that opportunities for blind people to participate in team sports are very limited and beep ball offers participants that opportunity. Therefore, ABC continues to support that program.

We have also established a fund that will support cutting edge vision restoration projects. Funding for the Vision Quest Fund will be derived from dedicated donations to the fund. ABC has made a initial seed donation and will set the funds aside until a project which shows good promise is identified. Awards will be made at that time. The Assistive Technology Fund has been an overwhelming success. The number of requests and inquiries from all around the country indicates that the need in the blind community for these devices is substantial. It appears that the word is spreading about this project and the demand has far exceeded what we had projected.

Our newest project has been under development for some time and is called English in 24 Hours. This idea was brought to my attention by Cheryl Cumings and, although the process of development was lengthy and tedious at times, we have the product on the market. I would like to thank Citizens Bank of Massachusetts for a grant that allowed us to get this project off the ground. I also would like to thank Tim Cumings for the extraordinary job he did in producing this program.

Social projects have continued including luncheons, a DVS movie night, day trips and one overnight trip which included some blind individuals from New Hampshire. ABC's social events are free or are subsidized to ensure that blind people are able to participate regardless of economic means.

Our website has experienced substantial growth in content and a face lift for our visually dependent visitors. Traffic to the web site has quadrupled from last year's figures and a substantial volume of inquiries regarding blindness are being sent via e-mail. You will also notice that a second URL has been added and you can now use www.blindcitizens.org or www.blindcitizens.org. Please note that although a new URL has been added, all e-mail addresses to contact ABC remain as listed on the web site or on published materials. ABC owns both URLs so either will work when trying to contact the web site. The web site will continue to change as ABC continues to grow, but both URLs will take you to the same great site.

ABC's monthly information and news show for the blind community In Focus continues to inform the blind community about programs and products of interest to the blind. Recently, In Focus was brought to the attention of singer and entertainer Mr. Ray Charles and he recorded a promo for the show because he liked the informative nature of the show. I have personally thanked Mr. Charles for his effort and I would like to publicly thank him for taking the time from his busy schedule to assist the Association of Blind Citizens.

The Advocate continues it's mission of providing the blind community with a newsletter that covers a variety of topics and contains a substantial amount of information for the blind community. As you can tell by this verbal snapshot the organization has been very, very busy. You can clearly see the successes that have been achieved during 2002. The organization is poised for even bigger successes in 2003! The programs that I have outlined above are rapidly expanding to meet demands of the community in which ABC strives to continue to create opportunities. There are several other program concepts that I would love to see implemented and take this opportunity to invite you to submit any ideas that you feel would be of benefit to blind individuals.

ABC's programs and services have primarily come from your thoughts and suggestions and I know that many of you have new ideas.

I have been asked repeatedly when ABC is going to start charging a membership fee. I am sure that each of you have an opinion regarding what a membership fee should be. I could conduct a survey, compile your answers, and recommend the fee be based on that average. ABC could set a fixed membership fee. Some of you would think that it was too high and some would think it was a great deal for what the organization is doing. For these reasons, and because we feel that the programs are too important to lose momentum on this issue, we will continue to operate with no formal membership fee structure. However, I am going to ask you to reflect on my verbal snapshot of ABC's accomplishments during this past year and indicate by your donation what you believe a fair membership fee to be. Do you value the programs and services that ABC offers? Have you been on a trip with the group that you enjoyed? Have you learned something on our radio show? Do you take pride in the fact that your organization has sent children to camp, sponsored the production of braille literature, encouraged growth and teamwork through team sports, sponsored education for the blind and provided assistive technology for the blind community?

These programs ARE important in our community and throughout the country -- but they come at a cost. A few of you have worked hard to promote the organization and take part in fund raising activities and I take this opportunity to thank you. Others are unable to assist the organization in this way. In order to expand the programs that we believe to be so valuable, it is important that we increase our funding. I would ask each of you to donate to the organization whatever amount you feel would be a fair and appropriate membership fee. The process to donate has been made very simple. You can make a secure online donation by clicking the make a secure online donation link at www.blindcitizens.org. or you can send a check made payable to Association of Blind Citizens Inc. P.O. Box 246 Holbrook, MA 02343. Our national pledge center would also be happy to process your donation -- you can call them any time before December 31 at 1-800-689-0770 and make your pledge using Visa or MasterCard.

The executive board and I would like to thank you all in advance for your donations. Not only will your donations help continue our important programs, it will confirm for us that these programs are important to all of you and spur us on to reach new goals!

In closing, the Board of Directors and I wish all of you a very happy and healthy holiday season. We hope that you had the opportunity to meet many ABC members and were able to participate in ABC events. We welcome everyone to come and join ABC in developing opportunities for people who are blind and visually impaired as ABC prepares to enter its third year of creating opportunity, one step at a time.


Do you have an interesting hobby? Do you have the latest high tech gadgets on the market? Articles relating to hobbies and interests or product reviews are welcome. The submission deadline for our Spring/Summer 2003 edition is April 1, 2003.


These kids touch the stars

A Braille book from NASA offers images from the Hubble telescope.

By SUFIYA ABDUR-RAHMAN

Chicago Tribune Friday, November 29, 2002

CHICAGO By moving their fingertips over raised lines and bumps on the pages of a new book Thursday, a group of visually impaired students saw images of "Touch the Universe: A NASA Braille Book of Astronomy" contains images captured by the Hubble Space Telescope and was unveiled at DePaul University, NASA's Space Science Center for the Midwest region.

The book was made so that both blind and sighted people can read it and perceive its illustrations. For example, one page shows an image of the Ring Nebula, a gaseous cloud in the constellation Lyra, in shades of red, green and blue. On top of that image are raised wavy lines separating the different gases, and dots and parallel lines representing the gases. The adjacent page has Braille type explaining the image and large-print text written under it.

"So many people have the misconception that astronomy is a visual science," said Bernhard Beck-Winchatz, an astronomer and DePaul University professor who came up with the idea for the book.

"Astronomy is not just for sighted people; astronomy is for everybody.

" Beck-Winchatz said sight is rarely needed nowadays to analyze telescopic images because much of it is done with computers.

"There's no reason why a blind person could not be an astronomer or any kind of scientist," he said.

Middle and high school students from the Wisconsin Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Janesville had several comments about what they were viewing in the book.

"Saturn doesn't seem to be round like the other planets," said Grace King, 16, who was a little confused by the ring that surrounds the planet.

"There's the raised dots and the visual dots, but there are visual dots that don't have raised dots," said Marcus Couch, 17, using his limited sight to challenge an image of the Hubble Northern Deep Field.

Fred Nesvold, a science and math teacher at Hadley School for the Blind in Winnetka, said resources like "Touch the Universe," with both Braille and print, are far too rare. "When I find a book, I have to ask, 'Has it been made in Braille?' If it hasn't, I could order it, but it wouldn't come for the next school year," he said.

The book was funded by a $10,000 Hubble Space Telescope grant for educational programs.


Dollars for Scholars by Linda H. Bolle

Online Financial Aid Resources (N through Z)

NCAA

http://www.ncaa.org/about/scholarships.html

The NCAA lists several scholarship resources for student athletes.

NIH National Institutes of Health

http://grants2.nih.gov/grants/funding/funding.htm

A direct funding link, as well as general NIH information

NSF National Science Foundation

http://www.nsf.gov/pubsys/ods/index.html

A direct funding link, as well as general NSF information

NYU GIGS

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/fininfo/gigs.html

New York University's Grants in Graduate Studies provides pages of links one can browse by discipline, and also includes a simple search engine.

Pacific Northwest Scholarship Guide

http://fp2.adhost.com/collegeplan/scholarship/default.asp

This database contains listings for individuals both inside and outside the Pacific Northwest area. Simply select eligibility criteria and search--no registration necessary.

Scholarsite

http://www.scholarsite.com/busqueda.htm

Scholarsite offers users a database search in both English and Spanish, but does not require a profile to browse the database of 600,000 listings. The search engine contains both undergraduate and graduate opportunities.

Scholarship News

http://www.computerinstallation.com/scholarshipnew/products.htm

Scholarship News provides browsable scholarship lists by majors, residency, ethnic and religious background, athletics, and other criteria.

The Scholarship Page!

http://www.scholarship-page.com/

The Scholarship Page! contains a quick overview of scholarship listings grouped by discipline on the Browse link. Scholarship surfers should make sure to click the "Links" hyperlink, which contains several scholarship-related resources.

Scholarships.com

http://www.scholarships.com/

Enter your personalized profile to match your specific skills, talents, interests, and abilities to Scholarships.com's database of over 600,000 college scholarship awards. Your results will be delivered to you immediately on-line. Scholarships.com also offers information on loans and grants.

Scholarships Canada Com

http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/

This site requires user registration and provides scholarship information for Canadian citizens and study in Canada.

SRN Express

http://www.srnexpress.com/index.cfm

The Scholarship Resource Network (SRN) is an excellent web database resource for scholarship searches. You must register for this service.

Scholarship TRAK

http://www.scholarshiptrak.com/scholarshiptrak/

ScholarshipTRAK, a division of MonsterTRAK.com, searches a database, of more than 8,000 funding sources which comprise more than 600,000 individual awards. The database provides each funding source's eligibility requirements, due dates, number of awards, award amounts, and contact information.

Science Wise

http://content.sciencewise.com/newscholarship/membersrch.htm?id=-1

Science Wise provides a sophisticated search engine and a database users can browse for science and engineering majors. Users can choose a quick search also, or sign up for the Science Wise alert, a free e-mail service that delivers valuable research and education funding opportunities.

StudentAwards.com

http://www.studentawards.com/

StudentAwards.com is a FREE scholarship search service to help U.S. and Canadian high school seniors, university and college students find information on scholarships, bursaries, grants and other forms of financial assistance.

Supercollege.com

http://www.supercollege.com/channel.cfm?loc=2&t=4

SuperCollege provides help on many college-related topics for both parents and students. The site requires users to create a login profile to search 400,000 awards worth over $1.1 billion.

U.S. News & World Report

http://12.47.197.196/usnews/scholarships.cfm

You can also investigate the U.S. News & World Report Scholarship Database, which lists scholarships based on several criteria, such as ethnicity and national origin, athletics, art, corporate, organizational, and military. You can also complete a personalized search based on the personal characteristics that you enter. U.S. News also publishes a helpful report about financial aid and application strategies for the college application process.

UNCF

http://www.uncf.org/

A large listing of scholarships available for African-American graduate and undergraduate students who attend(ed) UNCF member institutions.

University of Kansas egrants page

http://www.ku.edu/~graduate/Egrants/Egrants_table.html

The University of Kansas provides a table that summarizes numerous funding opportunities. The UKansas Humanities Grant Development Office provides several useful links for graduate students who seek funding and help on grant development, such as: Databases and Search Engines; Foundations Government Agencies; Humanities Funding Agencies; Humanities Research Centers; Major Arts Funding Agencies; Opportunities for Graduate Students; Postdoctoral Fellowship Programs; Proposal Development Advice; and other Useful Information Sources.

Wiredscholar scholarship search

http://www.wiredscholar.com/paying/scholarship_search/pay_scholarship_search.js

A scholarship search service from Sallie Mae. Wiredscholar online scholarship service allows students to search the free database for funding information from a variety of resources, including scholarships, fellowships, grants, work study, loan programs, tuition waivers, internships, competitions, and work cooperative programs.

Other Resources:

"Dollars for College" is a book series published by Garrett Park Press. Each book in the series focuses on a specific area of study, including: (1) Art, Music, and Drama; (2) Business and Related Fields; (3) Disabilities; (4) Education; (5) Engineering; (6) Journalism and Mass Communications; (7) Law; (8) Liberal Arts: Humanities and Social Science; (9) Medicine, Dentistry, and Related Fields; (10) Nursing and Other Health Fields; (11) Science; and (12) Women in All Fields. The book on Disabilities contains five sections. Section I discusses the following topics: Students with Disabilities and Higher Education, Types of Programs Cited, How to Use this Booklet, Federal Financial Aid Programs, and Financial Aid Terminology. Section II focuses on Financial Aid Programs for Students with Disabilities. Section III provides a listing of Useful Books. Section IV lists the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of Associations Concerned with Persons with Disabilities. Section V is an Index. To obtain any book in the "Dollars for College" series, contact: J.G. Ferguson Publishing Company, 200 West Madison, Suite 300, Chicago, Illinois 60606.

Reference Services Press offers a publication entitled "Funding for Persons with Visual Impairments" in large print and on diskette. These listings are updated annually.

"Funding for Persons with Visual Impairments: Large Print Edition" contains a large-print listing of the scholarships, fellowships, loans, grants-in-aid, awards, and internships that are set aside just for persons with visual impairments (from high school seniors through professionals and others). More than 175 funding opportunities are described in detail. The entries are grouped by program type and arranged alphabetically by program title. The text is printed in Helvetica Bold, in 19-point type. 170 pages. Comb binding. ISBN 0-918276-85-3. $30.00.

"Funding for Persons with Visual Impairments: PLUS Edition," the on-disk version, is much more extensive than the Large Print Edition; it includes all of the program descriptions found in the large print edition, plus 300 additional funding opportunities open to persons with any disability (including visual impairments). The PLUS Edition is available in both Macintosh and IBM-compatible versions (3 1/2 inch disks). The text is in ASCII (text only) format and will work with any standard word processing program. Specify which version (Mac or IBM) you'd like when you place your order. 1 disk (3 1/2 inches). ISBN 0-918276-86-1. $50.00.

Reference Services Press also offers financial aid resources for: (1) College Study; (2) Middle-Class Students; (3) Minorities; (4) Women; (5) Graduate Study & Research; (6) Disabled & Families; (7) Veterans, Military, & Families; (8) Study & Research Abroad; (9) Nursing Students & Nurses; (10) Engineering Students; and (11) Beginning Fundseekers.

For more information, contact Reference Services Press at: 5000 Windplay Drive, Suite 4, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762. Telephone: (916) 939-9620.

The HEATH Resource Center operates the national clearinghouse on postsecondary education for individuals with disabilities. Support from the United States Department of Education enables the Center, a program of the American Council on Education, to serve as an information exchange about educational support services, policies, procedures, adaptations, and opportunities on American campuses, vocational-technical schools, adult education programs, independent living centers, and other training entities after high school. The Center collects and disseminates this information so that people with disabilities can develop their full potential through postsecondary education and training if they choose. The HEATH Resource Center offers a "National Resource Directory on Postsecondary Education and Disability." The Directory contains sections on: Advocacy, Access, and Awareness; Community Integration; Disability-Specific Organizations (including a special subsection on Vision Impairment); Funding; Legal Assistance; Technology; Additional Resources; Index; and Toll-Free Telephone Services.

The HEATH Resource Center also publishes Resource Papers, Newsletters, Newsletter Article Reprints, and Other Publications. Single copies of HEATH materials are free to those who request them. Materials are available in print, on audiocassette, or on diskette (either Mac or IBM format). For details, call HEATH at: (800) 544-3284 or (202) 939-9320.

Both numbers are Voice and TTY/TDD compatible. You may also contact the Center via e-mail at: HEATH@ACE.NCHE.EDU or write to: HEATH, One Dupont Circle, Suite 800, Washington, DC 20036-1193.


If you write for fun or are a professional writer you may submit articles on any topic for publication or republication. Submissions for our Spring/Summer edition must be submitted by April 1, 2003. Please submit articles via email to Editor@blindcitizens.org.


Book Review by Cheryl Cumings

Title: the Imprisoned Guest, Samuel Howe and Laura Bridgman, The Original

Deaf-Blind Girl

Book Number: RC 51840 BR 13353

Author: Elisabeth Gitter

At the time I picked up this book, I saw it as the lesser of two evils. I wanted to participate in a book discussion group and it was either The Imprisoned guest or another choice which boarded on the tortuous. I freely admit that I am always skeptical of biographies and autobiographies of people with disabilities. In both instances, There is always the possibility of encountering a sappy sentimentalized story with some higher moral insight to be drawn from the whole experience. I was therefore pleasantly surprised when I began to read this book. I literally sat up and really started to pay attention. Ms. Gitter's writing is beautiful,

At times even quite poetic and lyrical. This is an unvarnished telling of a story that remains true to its objectives. Ms. Gitter's tells the good and bad of everyone and everything. Yet, as I read, I was left with a feeling of Balance; confident that I had gained a true and complete understanding of how Things and people were.

Using journal entries, letters, newspaper articles and previous works, we get to know Laura Brigdman and Samuel Howe through their own words and the perspectives of others. Laura Bridgman was the little deaf-blind girl who built Samuel Howe's reputation as an educator. It can also be said, that Laura Bridgman is the little girl who helped build the Perkins School for the Blind, then known as the Perkins Institute for the Blind. Like Helen Keller, Laura was internationally known. People came from across the country and across the world to see Laura and the Perkins Institute for the blind.

When I read this in the annotation, I did not quite believe it. However, Elisabeth Gitter goes beyond describing the process of education and the relationship between Laura and Samuel Howe: to include their historical context. As a result, in addition to learning about the founding of Perkins, we also learn about the political, philosophical and educational views of the Nineteenth century. Of course, a significant discussion includes the attitudes and beliefs of the society surrounding blind, deaf and physically disabled people.

In talking about the relationship between Laura and her family, we gain insight into nineteenth century farming in New Hampshire: the gender roles, the laws, governing land use and inheritance. There is also a lengthy discussion of the battle royal between the Unitarians and the Congregationalists. How fascinating to discover that debates on disciplining children were occurring over a hundred years ago.

Although at first glance, these issues may appear spurious to the story, Ms. Gitter always links her discussion of social attitudes to an aspect of Laura's story. Throughout we see how the larger society influenced Samuel Howe, Laura Bridgman and the development of Perkins. As the story draws to an end, and one might expect pathos, Ms. Gitter presents Laura as a person who was able to make a space for herself on terms of dignity.

I began reading the Imprisoned guest reluctantly and cautiously. Now upon finishing this book, I can enthusiastically recommend and strongly encourage you to read The Imprisoned Guest.


Your donations are always welcome to help in supporting the programs and the services of the Association of Blind Citizens. Donations should be made payable to Association of Blind Citizens, PO Box 246, Holbrook, MA 02343.


Association of Blind Citizens Announces New Program

The Association of Blind Citizens announces the release of "English in 24 hours", the first auditory English as a second language program designed specifically for blind and visually impaired non-English speaking individuals. Recognizing the crucial need of blind and visually impaired persons to acquire English language skills, ABC developed this auditory ESL program with the assistance of a grant from Citizens Bank of Massachusetts. Sandy Blanes, a veteran ESL instructor, served as a consultant to ABC and the curriculum designer and instructor. Sandy stated, "We are very excited about this program. It was created with the idea of not needing a text book and like all ESL programs, it begins with the basics and progresses on to conversation."

With the many ESL programs that exist, blind and visually impaired non-English speaking students remain a segment of the population who are excluded because present teaching methods are predominantly visual. As a result, many never enroll in an ESL program and those who begin a class find it frustrating and frequently do not complete the program.

"English in 24 Hours" consists of thirty-five lessons. To keep the students' interest the lessons were designed so that no lesson will exceed fifteen minutes. "By keeping the lessons short, we hope people will find it easy to fit into their schedules. We also wanted to make sure that English Language Learners were not overwhelmed and the shorter segments should aid in retention," said Sandy Blanes.

Each lesson focuses on one topic and is structured to encourage the student to actively participate. The program begins with the alphabet, numbers and basic verbs. Students will study scenarios which illustrate how different concepts are used. By listening to this ESL program, we hope blind and visually impaired students will acquire the basic English Language skills necessary to begin conquering the barriers to communication. To learn more about "English in 24 Hours" visit www.blindcitizens.org and click on English in 24 hours link. You can purchase "English in 24 Hours" for $104 which includes shipping and handling. Please allow 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Make checks payable to: Association of Blind Citizens and mail to P.O. Box 246, Holbrook, MA 02343


The Association of Blind Citizens' mission is to increase opportunities in education, employment, cultural, recreational and other life activities, as well as enhance the social, and economic well-being for all people who are blind or visually impaired.


Could bionic eye end blindness?

By Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Kristi Petersen

(CNN) --Artificial vision for the blind was once the stuff of science fiction -- Lt. Geordi La Forge's visor on "Star Trek" or the bionic eye of "The Six Million Dollar Man."

But now, a limited form of artificial vision is a reality -- one some say is one of the greatest triumphs in medical history.

"We are now at a watershed," Joseph Lazzaro, author of "Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments," told CNN. "We are at the beginning of the end of blindness with this type of technology."

Any scientific advance would have broad implications. According to statistics from Research to Prevent Blindness, Inc., 1.1 million people in the United States are legally blind, while worldwide 42 million people are without sight.

The Dobelle Institute is among several institutions trying in essence to create a new cornea through technology. The cornea allows light into the interior of the eye.

Dobelle is using a digital video camera mounted on glasses to capture an image and send it to a small computer on the patient's belt: The images are processed and sent to electrodes implanted in the patient's visual cortex. The electrodes stimulate the brain, producing a pattern of bright spots that form an image.

"With this device, you don't lose anything. You actually have a fifth sense restored, and that is what I just absolutely adore with this device," said one of the first eight implant patients to test the technology, a man who asked to be identified only as Jens.

"You are no longer blind. You might be blind to some objects, some situations, but you are not totally blind anymore," he said.

A Canadian farmer and father of eight, Jens lost his sight 18 years ago in an accident. Now he's able to navigate through rooms, find doors and even drive a car to some degree.

"I was able to very carefully drive and look from my left side to my right side, making sure I was between this row of trees on the right and the building on my left," he says. "When I got near any obstruction, I would see that there was an obstruction. I would also see the lack of obstructions, knowing I wasn't going to run over anybody ... It was a very nice feeling."

The black and white image Jens sees is not solid, but resembles a dot matrix pattern. It's like looking at a sport scoreboard with different light patterns illuminated to show different scores.

The miniaturization of equipment and more powerful computers have made this artificial vision possible, but it's not cheap: The operation, equipment and necessary training cost $70,000 per patient.

All eight of the experimental surgeries were performed in Portugal: FDA regulations still prohibit the procedure in the United States.

But Dr. Bill Dobelle, of the Dobelle Institute, says the technology has broad potential.

"It may not work for people blinded as children or as infants, because the visual cortex did not develop normally," he says. "But I would say (it will work) for the vast majority of the blind -- 98 to 99 percent."

Other researchers are focusing on new technology to replace damaged retinas, the part of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain to be turned into images.

Optobionics Corporation of Wheaton, Illinois, says six blind or nearly blind people can now see light and some can see shapes after having the company's artificial retina implanted. Optobionics hopes to have the artificial retina on the market in five years, but critics say it will take years of independent testing to prove it helps the blind.

NASA hopes to begin human testing this year on ceramic detectors that could be implanted in the retina to take over the job of damaged retinal cells. And the Office of Naval Research goes one step further -- it says it is on the way to developing a chip that would replicate the entire nerve center of the retina.

With all the new research developments coming into view, Jens says he's glad he's been able to catch a glimpse of the future of blindness.

"I could see that there was really potential for some really good life coming ahead of me," he says. "It was like, I would say, throwing back the curtains in the morning when you get up and letting in sunshine. I would equate it to that feeling."


COMPUTER GAMES FOR THE BLIND

By MICHAEL STROH

The Baltimore Sun

Like millions of kids around the country, 12-year-old Amy Herstein found new computer games under the tree this Christmas. But these games aren't like any you'll find at the local computer store. That's because Amy, who lives in Ellicott City, Md., is blind. And the bowling and Monopoly games she now plays on her family PC are designed not for the eye, but the ear. While most mainstream game designers are pushing the limits of computer graphics technology to create titles with ultra-realistic 3-D looks, a small group of programmers is doing just the opposite for sight-impaired computer users: developing titles with little or no visual content. For example, instead of aiming just to the right of a headpin she can't see, Amy listens to a wavering tone that tells her when it's time to release her bowling ball. If she times it exactly right, it's a strike. If she moves too soon or too late, it's a gutter ball.

The emergence of such games signals a subtle shift in the computer's role in the lives of people with disabilities. Advocates for the disabled have long viewed computers as important tools for learning or for getting a job, but some are reconsidering the importance of computer games.

"People trivialize computer games. But for people with certain disabilities, it really is their only form of entertainment," says Randy Marsden, president of Madentec Limited in Edmonton, Alberta, which recently developed a technology for those who've lost the use of their hands to play Microsoft's Links 2000" golf simulator.

The existence of games for the sightless comes as a surprise even to most blind computer users. "Hardly anyone knows these games are out there," says Michael Feir, a blind game enthusiast who started Audyssey, the first online magazine about computer games for the blind.

When Amy's mother, Karen Herstein, discovered the games at a recent conference for the blind, she thought they might make Amy more comfortable with computers and her classmates at Dunloggin Middle School, where she is the only blind student. "She always feels different anyway," her mother says. I thought if she could talk to other kids about computer games, it might be something she could have in common."

The games were created by Carl Mickla and Bill Vlasak, two blind game designers whose company, Personal Computer Systems in Perth Amboy, N.J., is the only one of its kind in the United States, although others are planned. For years, the only games accessible to blind computer users were primitive text-based adventures, leftovers from the early days of computing such as the 1970s classic Zork." In these games, players navigate a complex underground labyrinth with short, typed commands such as go north" or pick up ax." The computer responds with a simple description of the player's surroundings and other characters' actions (Troll chops off your head").

Because these adventure games use only words, they're easily digested by the screen-reading software that most blind computer users employ to convert text to speech. But Mickla and Vlasak wanted more. Both had been avid game players before losing their sight as adults.

When personal computers first appeared, Mickla _ who never had great vision _ hooked his Apple II to a 19-inch television set and played graphical adventure games such as "Wizzardy" a nose-length from the screen.

When his vision deserted him in 1990, Mickla took a few programming classes and started the company with Vlasak, who had been an interior designer at Macy's in New York before complications from diabetes took his sight. At first, the games they created were simple, text-based sports simulations such as baseball. But their games have gradually become more sophisticated _ and faster-paced. "The big problem: How are you going to get a blind person to do targeting?" says Mickla. Their solution: Paint pictures with sound. Just as a blind person can tell the difference between an environment of grass or cement by its sound signature, Mickla and Vasak have embedded sophisticated audio cues in their games to signify when players are approaching a wall _ or just got nailed by a left hook. Mickla and Vlasak try to crank out five new games a year and actively sell a dozen titles, including bowling, car racing and kickboxing games _ there's even an audio version of Pac-Man. Still, the blind game business isn't easy. They're lucky to sell 50 copies of each game a month. We're not even making coffee money," Mickla says. It's pretty hard to market to blind people."

But advocates for the disabled say the number of potential gamers is large. According to the latest Census Bureau figures, one in 10 Americans has a serious disability. Some disabled computer users wonder why there aren't more games available for them. A few are pressing mainstream game makers to add subtitles and other adaptations.

For teen-agers Henry and Andrew De Young of Export, Pa., problems are even more frustrating. The boys were born with a degenerative neuromuscular disorder that confines them to wheelchairs and blunts their fine motor skills. They can't turn a page, they can't play Legos. The computer is the one thing they can do. "It's their world," says Joan De Young, their mother. Andrew, 13, is barely able to use a keyboard.

Fourteen-year-old Henry can't manipulate one at all. As a result, they can play only games that use a computer mouse. Unfortunately, they find that many games don't.

They've sent e-mail to game publisher EA Sports, which makes popular PC titles such as Madden football, to ask for mouse control in their games. They've also pleaded their case to Lucas Arts Entertainment, which makes the popular Star Wars and Indiana Jones games.

But those who follow the industry say it's unlikely that mainstream developers will spend the time or money to adapt their games for people with disabilities. Microsoft has built features into Windows to make the operating system easier to use by people with disabilities, such as subtitling. But a company spokesman says he knows of no company that has incorporated the feature. "The cost is probably not worth it to the companies," says Rob Smolka, senior editor at PC Gamer magazine in San Francisco. It may not be high up on their radar." But some advocates for the disabled are hoping the software industry might be forced to reconsider.

In November, the National Federation of the Blind sued America Online in federal court, claiming the online giant had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because its software is incompatible with screen readers that convert on-screen text to speech or Braille. Says Joan De Young, with a sigh: Maybe with just a little programming they could reach a new class of people."


Please remember that our relationship with White Flower Shop is ongoing and they are available to you whenever those special occasions arise. You can reach them at 781-767-3283 or nationwide at 1-800-788-1427. Be sure to tell them that you are being referred by ABC so that we may receive a donation.


OPTICAL MAGIC

Posted on Fri, Nov. 22, 2002

story:PUB_DESC

Woman gets the chance for a new look at life

DEVICE PROMISES TO EASE EFFORT FOR VISUALLY IMPAIRED STUDENT

BY ASHLEY FANTZ

afantz@herald.com

OPTICAL MAGIC: Wearing the Jordy2 sight-boosting equipment, Yael Laufman watches her father, neurology researcher Moshe Laufman, who is also shown on a video monitor as he takes her picture this week. TOM ERVIN / For The Herald.

Yael Laufman is a sight. Her long, thick auburn hair is swept away from her face, which is painted in the same violet shade as the glittery studs on her jeans. In her hands she holds a contraption that looks like binoculars attached to a headband.

The gadget is called a Jordy2, the latest technology to help the visually impaired see. She was fitted for the device at her doctor's office Tuesday. For the 26-year-old Laufman -- legally blind since birth -- the headband means she'll be better prepared to take on medical school next year.

"This is a tool of independence,'' she said this week.

Born three months premature, Laufman was placed in an incubator with a dangerously high level of oxygen that damaged her retinas. Her condition wasn't discovered until she was 7 months old.

She underwent emergency surgery to reattach what was left of her retinas -- thus making her a candidate for a Jordy model. The device works only for those with some portion of their retinas intact. It cannot give sight to those who are completely blind.

Laufman's graduation from Florida Atlantic University in May with degrees in biochemistry and pre-med studies captured the attention of the Palm Beach Lions Clubs, which bought the new $4,000 Jordy2 model for her. The device is designed in part by a NASA engineer who is legally blind.

"We were struck by how extraordinary her circumstances were,'' said Lions Club president Bill Mattingly, who will present the device to Laufman today in West Palm Beach.

One of four Jordy developers in the nation, Dr. Scott, hearing of the Stuart Eye Institute in Jupiter, heard about Laufman at the same time as the Lions. He contacted her in May and offered her a free Jordy1, the heavier and more cumbersome $7,000 test model first available to the public in 1991.

The Jordy2 weighs much less than its predecessor and its shape has been reduced to the size of compact camera. There are only a few people in the country with a Jordy1; even fewer use the newest model.

The equipment could have eased Laufman's six years at FAU where reading one chapter often took her seven hours huddled over tiny script with magnifying glasses.

"I used note-takers without science backgrounds who sometimes got the information wrong and I had to spend hours with the professor going over everything,'' she recalled. Dissections were not easy.

The Jordy2 will let Laufman see a professor's face from the back of a lecture hall and read overhead projector notes.

Throughout her childhood, Laufman's father, Moshe, a neurology researcher, fought to get mainstream schools to adapt to his daughter's needs. "She sat on the outside of circles in kindergarten, afraid to speak up,'' he said. In 10th grade, Laufman attended St. Augustine School for the Deaf and Blind in Daytona. Although the experience helped her relax socially for the first time, she left the institution when administrators told her that her disability made it impossible for her to work with hazardous chemicals in chemistry class. She returned to Hollywood and Nova High School mid-year, asked to take chemistry, but was again rejected for the same reason. Undefeated, she demanded to be tested. After she got a near-perfect score, the school relented.

Director of Student Services at Fort Lauderdale High School, Dr. Risa Sloane, taught Laufman as part of Nova's Exceptional Student Education program. "It was perseverance combined with technology that helped her advance,'' said Sloane. "She would get headaches from using special microscope glasses. It was very hard. But the kind of ambition she had -- it was clear that she didn't need to stay the four years and could get early admission.

Impressed with her performance in chemistry, other science classes, and on the SAT, Nova Southeastern University accepted the teen as a bio-medical student before she finished 11th grade.

It took her six years to get a degree. She started at NSU, then transferred to Broward Community College and finished at FAU.

Her FAU organic chemistry classmates were unaware of her impairment. Teaching assistant Theodore Sabir initially doubted that Laufman could succeed in a tough chemistry class. But when Laufman went to class the second day with an enormous amount of material memorized, he didn't question her.

She has applied to the University of Miami's medical school.

Laufman and her father have established a Vision Project Foundation in conjunction with Hearing to help other people buy Jordys.

"What I've done isn't unusual,'' said Laufman, who said she isn't sure what kind of medicine she eventually wants to practice. "Why shouldn't I accomplish these things? The Jordy takes some of the stigma out of it. Other people should get a chance to feel that way.'' TO LEARN MORE.

For information on the Jordy visual aid, call the Vision Project Foundation hotline at 1-888-482-9943 or visit www.drhearing.net


Please place the Association of Blind Citizens on your giving list. Donations should be made payable to Association of Blind Citizens PO Box 246 Holbrook MA 02343.


If you write for fun or are a professional writer you may submit articles on any topic for publication or republication. Submissions for our Spring/Summer edition must be submitted by April 1, 2003. Please submit them via email to Editor@blindcitizens.org or mail them on disk to ABC, P.O. Box 246 Holbrook MA 02343.


Your donations are always welcome to help in supporting the programs and the services of the Association of Blind Citizens. Donations should be made payable to Association of Blind Citizens, PO Box 246, Holbrook, MA 02343.


Association of Blind Citizens expands programs

The Association of Blind Citizens has established the Assistive Technology Fund. The Assistive Technology Fund (ATF) will provide funds to cover 50% of the retail price of adaptive devices or software. The ABC board of directors believes that this program will allow blind and visually impaired individuals access to technology products that will have a significant impact on improving employment opportunities, increase the level of independence and enhance their overall quality of life.

The products covered by this program must retail for a minimum of $200 with a maximum retail price of $6000. Persons eligible to apply for assistance must have a family income of less than $50,000 and cash assets of less than $20,000. Applications will be reviewed by the Assistive Technology Committee (ATC) and recommendations will be submitted for board approval. If applicants are selected to receive a technology grant, applicants will be asked to provide documents such as tax returns, bank statements and any other documents that the ABC board or it's designee would deem necessary to assess financial need for the grant.

Applicants must be legally blind and the grantee must be a resident of the United States. Applications must be submitted by June 30, September 30 and December 31 for each grant period (three per year). Applicants will be notified if their request for a grant is approved. Applicants may submit one request per calendar year. All applications must be submitted via e-mail in accordance with the procedures outlined on the ABC website. You will be notified by ABC within 45 days after the application deadline.

To learn more and obtain your application please visit www.blindcitizens.org and click on the Assistive Technology Fund link.


This article was previously published in AFB Access World magazine

REVIEW OF MICROSOFT WINDOWS XP PRO

BY JOSEPH LAZZARO

Windows XP is the latest operating system from Microsoft Corporation, having been on the market since October of 2001. If you purchase a new computer, it will come loaded with XP. As XP is now an undisputed fact of life, it is in our best interest as consumers to know as much about it as we can. In a recent issue, Access World took a brief look at Xp, but now it is time to examine this newest operating system in more detail.

Windows XP comes in two basic flavors: XP Home and XP Professional. In this review, we will evaluate XP Professional. In general, XP Pro is about as useable as previous Windows versions, and there are plenty of minor and serious inaccessibility issues that definitely need fixing, and you have to do a lot of configuring to make it work properly with a screen reader. As Jaws and Window Eyes are the two most popular Windows based screen readers on the market at the present time, it is only logical that we have chosen to review XP using both of these packages. But this should not be confused with a review of Jaws or Window eyes. That may come later if time and space permit. We are also not comparing Jaws to Window Eyes in this review. Moreover, as Windows XP is such a large and comprehensive operating system, it is impossible to evaluate every feature in the space allotted. I attempt to cover the features that typical users are likely to use in their daily interactions with their computer. I discuss basic Windows navigation, the Start Menu, Task Bar, Notification Area, Desktop, menus, burning CDs, and how robust XP is in general using speech output.

Let me emphasize one very important point before we begin. In order to use any version of the Windows operating system with any screen reader, including XP, you must possess some basic troubleshooting skills in order to be effective. This is because none of the many flavors of the Windows operating system are yet fully compliant with adaptive technology. Microsoft tried to address the problem with Active Accessibility. But this is simply not robust enough to completely close all the accessibility holes, and is not universally supported by the adaptive vendor community.

Benchmarks

We tested Windows XP Professional on a Dell PC equipped with an 800 MHZ processor, 256 MB of RAM, and a 40 MB hard drive. The Creative Labs Sound Blaster PCI sound card was also used for this review.

In general, I was able to perform many functional tasks with XP, but there were some glaring disappointments. I was able to easily navigate through the Start Menu, Task Bar, Notification Area, and Desktop. All of these seem to work much as they have before with some differences we'll explain later. I could easily locate programs using the Start Menu, launch them, and switch between them using keyboard shortcuts. A lot of things work just like they did before, But I was particularly discouraged by the lack of accessibility for some new features found in XP such as Remote Desktop and Remote Assistance. If you're unfamiliar with these new features, Remote Desktop is a utility that allows you to connect to and control remote computers over a network or the Internet, and this just doesn't work yet with screen readers. Remote Assistance, which lets another person take control of your computer over a network or the Internet also sadly does not work with screen readers yet. I find it troubling that Microsoft has failed to make these important parts of XP accessible for blind users, even after all the work that the disability community has done to educate the software giant. Could it be that Microsoft managers just don't give a damn about accessibility? It is in everyone's best interest to create accessible products and services that every individual can partake of, no matter their abilities. But I'll get off the soapbox for a minute, and press on with the review.

Start Menu

As is the case with previous versions of Windows, the Start Menu is the main menu of the XP operating system. The Start Menu has the same basic functionality under XP in that it is the menu that points to all of your installed software and documents. The Start Menu under XP still performs the same function as it does in previous versions of Windows, and the hot key to activate the menu is still CTRL+ESC, but its appearance has been slightly altered. The main difference is that the Start Menu comes up in two columns when popped up with the CTRL+ESC key sequence. The left column shows you your most frequently used programs, and the right column is a complete list of all your installed applications and documents, just like the old familiar Start Menu.

Furthermore, the left column of the Start Menu possesses two discrete areas. The upper portion represents applications that are pinned to the Start Menu, similar to shortcuts on the desktop. But instead of filling up your desktop, they appear on the Start Menu in a list. The lower portion of the left column is a list of your most recently used programs. The default number of programs that this list contains is six, but this can be modified. While I found this a bit confusing at first, I was able to adjust to this fairly quickly. But if you prefer the more traditional appearance, you can change back to the classic look under Start menu Properties. This changes the appearance of XP to resemble Windows 9X.

Task Bar

The Task Bar has long been an important object under the Windows operating system, and shows you the list of currently running programs. You can move through the Task Bar by using any arrow key. Arrows move you in the direction they're marked, and move by one program at a time. Repeated strikes of any arrow key will eventually return you to your starting point. I was initially confused by this behavior, but adjusted to the new scheme.

Desktop

The Desktop is still an object under Windows XP, and is a list of programs and documents that you can launch. This has never been a very user friendly part of Windows, and this is because this list is not orderly. The Desktop does not behave like a list box that you can navigate by using your up and down arrow keys, similar to the Start Menu. Instead, you have to hunt around using left, right, up, or down arrow keys, to move from one object to another. The Desktop only appears if you have set the view to the Windows Classic style. The Desktop is certainly way overdue for an overhaul!

System Tray

The Windows System Tray is now called the Notification Area, and this is a list of programs that are running in the background, similar to previous versions of Windows. Programs running in the Notification Area do not show up as icons in the Task Bar. You navigate to the Notification Area by using the Tab key. The Tab order sequence takes you from the Start Menu, to the Task Bar, to the Notification Area, and finally to the Desktop. There are hotkey commands in the major screen readers that take you directly to the Notification Area.

Command Prompt and DOS Applications

Windows XP possesses a command line interpreter, letting you perform many familiar DOS style commands. The command prompt lets you copy, delete, rename, and perform batch operations on files, similar to DOS mode under 9X or ME. XP is similar to NT in its support for DOS programs, and does not possess a full blown DOS box that can run most software. I found using the command line powerful and familiar, and it operated just like previous versions of Windows.

Writing CD-ROM Disks

Windows XP includes software that lets you burn your own CD-ROM disks, and this is one of my favorite features! You can use this software to backup important data files, and for burning general use CD-ROM disks. I found this feature easy to use using a screen reader. All you have to do is open up the directory with the files you want to burn, highlight the target files, open up My Computer, arrow down to the CD-ROM drive icon, and then paste the contents of the clipboard. The last step is to click on the File menu, and arrow down to write files to CD. It's simple, and easy to use, and speaks properly.

Last Words

In summary, Windows XP does not break any new ground in terms of accessibility. The installation process is not fully accessible for a blind person, and the system must be configured properly in order to speak correctly. The fact that my wife Cindy is a Microsoft Certified engineer Instructor and was able to answer my many questions about XP was a lot of valuable help. I found that I had to switch the XP look back to the Classic style in order to make it speak correctly, and make lots of changes that were not well documented. Windows XP is also full of automatic pop up programs that get in the way, and these had to be turned off, again, not easily. I found XP somewhat of a disappointment because many of the new and tasty features like Remote Desktop, and Remote Assistance are not yet accessible. All in all, Windows XP is useable with a screen reader, but leaves you longing for something a bit better.

Joseph Lazzaro is a freelance writer, and author of Adaptive Technologies for Learning and Work Environments, a guide describing how to adapt PCs for persons with disabilities. The book is available in print and CDROM. The CDROM version is written in standard HTML and is accessible for those using adaptive equipment. He is also project director of the Adaptive Technology Program at the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind in Boston. He maintains a web site at http://www.JoeLazzaro.Comm.


Assistive Technology Fund Awards Grants

The Assistive Technology Fund has awarded grants for two grant cycles. period The individuals received grants to purchase a wide variety of adaptive equipment. Some of the equipment they purchased included: Money identifier, large print or speech software, scanning software, computers, CCTVs, braille display Perkins Brailler and more. You will find a list of grant recipients below:

  • Donna Stepanovic, Colorado
  • Tyrone White, New York
  • Darlena Allen, Kansas
  • Stephen Capano, New York
  • Sharon K. Parsons, California
  • Harry Cordellos, California
  • Kathy Nimmer, Indiana
  • Kenneth Rogers, Minnesota
  • Fred Carter, Maryland
  • Liz Halperin, Washington
  • Linda M. H. Bolle, Massachusetts
  • James Fry, Minnesota
  • Mary Carlyle, North Carolina
  • Abram Villafan, California
  • Lenard B. Spicak, Arizona
  • Annee Hartzell, Washington
  • William Greely, Florida
  • Thomas R. Silverthorn, Michigan
  • Nancy C. Benjamin, Oregon
  • Jackie Ohime, Indiana
  • Eva Edwards, Washington DC

Market Place

The announcement of new products and services in this column should not be considered an endorsement of those products and services by the Association of Blind Citizens, its staff or elected officials. Products and services are listed free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Advocate" cannot be responsible for the reliability of products or services mentioned.

Assistive Technology Company

A. T. KRATTER & Company is dedicated to providing the finest adaptive and assistive technology and support for people with reading, visual, and learning disabilities. We offer hardware and software solutions for individuals, schools, government agencies, and organizations serving their needs, and represent many of the premier manufacturers and developers in our industry.

We are proud to represent many of the premier manufacturers and developers in our industry. Freedom Scientific (formerly Arkenstone, Henter Joyce, and Blazie Engineering), GW Micro, Ai Squared, Duxbury, ViewPlus Technologies, Enabling Technologies, Index Braille Magnisight, Rehan Electronics, and Enhanced Vision systems are just a few of them. We were honored as the top JAWS for Windows dealer in the nation for 2001 by Freedom Scientific.

We have a showroom in Garden Grove, open during normal business hours, where many of the technologies are available to be seen and tried. We prefer to work by appointment, but folks often just drop by to try the different systems we have, and especially to see the best selection of CCTV magnifiers and personal displays available anywhere. We are located on Valley View Street in Garden Grove, one mile north of the San Diego Fwy (405) and the Garden Grove Fwy (22).

To learn more about us, please visit our website at www.atkratter.com.

Andy Kratter A. T. KRATTER & Company, Inc. 12062 Valley View St., #109 Garden Grove, CA 92845 (714)799-3000 Voice (714)799-3100 Fax www.atkratter.com

New Tutorial

Verbal View of Windows XP is a comprehensive tutorial designed for beginner and intermediate users. The audio edition, 10 tone-indexed 2-track tapes with album, is recorded by the Cutting Corporation, a leader in audio production for the blind. This tutorial (500+ print pages with 37 chapters) is screen reader independent. Every chapter has a chapter summary for quick reference and has a keyboard summary when applicable. Price: Audio Edition $95; email edition $55. Call toll free 877-993-4994 with questions or to order; you can also order online at www.wyfiwyg.com or from any of our dealers listed there. All major credit cards accepted. (No shipping charge is computed for the e-mail version!)

FROM THE CASTLE

A business owner who is blind maintains a castle full of treasures for blind people. If you would like to find the best deals around on adaptive products and don't feel like spending all your time looking, we can help. Join our mailing list and uncover treasures beyond belief. Adaptive treasures will appear right in your mailbox, and shipping is free. To make things even more exciting, we give away a free gift every month.

To join the treasure scroll mailing list, send an e-mail to emailsrv@blindtreasures.com. In the body of the message, type subscribe treasurescroll (real name). Please do not include parentheses. For more information, contact Tony Meade, 10809 King William Rd., Apt. D6, Aylett, VA 23009, phone (804) 769-0226, e-mail blindtreasures@earthlink.net, or visit the web site, www.blindtreasures.com

DISABILITY-RELATED SALES on EBAY

eBay has a section for bidding on disability-related items such as books, assistive technologies, independent living aids and mobility products. The large print book section lists more than 400 books for sale. But items for sale change every day. The link is http://pages.ebay.com/theme/disability.html

.

TALKING BRAILLE PEGBOARD

BrailleMaster is a talking braille pegboard, or like a braille tutor. The idea came from a student learning braille who often became impatient waiting for his instructor to verify correct placement in the braille pegboard. Now the pegboard, called BrailleMaster, can talk. As braille dots are pressed, the corresponding symbol is announced. The cost of the BrailleMaster is $295. It divides instruction into 19 lessons beginning with the alphabet and concluding with grade 2 braille. The accompanying dictionary contains full spelling and contractions for more than 400 common English words. For more information, contact Kevin Knutson at (661) 631-1033, or Harold Hallikainen by phone at (805) 541-0200 or e-mail him at engineering@dovesystems.com, web site http://www.braillemaster.biz.

BRAILLER AND TYPEWRITER REPAIR

The Selective Doctor, Inc. is a repair service for Perkins Braillers and IBM typewriters. The brailler can be sent free matter, and should be insured when mailed. Labor costs for repairs are $50, plus the cost of parts. Send item to The Selective Doctor, Inc., P.O. Box 28432, Baltimore, MD 21234. For more information, phone (410) 668-1143, e-mail braillerrepair@yahoo.com.

PREPARING FOR COLLEGE AS A STUDENT WHO IS BLIND

The book, "Preparing for College and Beyond," is a definitive source for academic students who need accommodations for a visual impairment. It explains what to expect, where to find resources and when, and how to advocate for one's needs. This guide is the result of research by authors Jamie Dote-Kwan, associate dean of student services at California State University, and Jeff Senge, coordinator for disabled student services, also at CSU. The book is available in grade 2 braille or 18-point large print, at a cost of $29.95. To order, contact the Braille Institute Press, phone (323) 906-3104, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific time.

INTERNET BY PHONE

Philmore Productions provides a service that allows access to the Internet using a touch-tone phone. The user can send and receive e-mail, browse web pages, and surf and post Usenet articles. System access costs $24.95 for five hours per month on a toll-free number, or $29.95 per month for unlimited time on our Chicago number. For more information, please call (877) 638-2974, or e-mail phil@philmore.net.

WHAT MAKES A LIVABLE COMMUNITY FOR PEOPLE WHO ARE BLIND?

If you could live anywhere in the U.S., where would it be? The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) is surveying U.S. citizens who are blind or visually impaired to find out what makes a community livable. This year-long, national research project will identify actual communities most highly rated by participants. The best-rated communities will be announced in February 2003, at Vision Loss in the 21st Century, an international symposium co-sponsored by the AFB and the Foundation for the Junior Blind (FJB). The purpose of the project is to help people who are visually impaired advocate to improve the accessibility of their own communities. The research will provide information resources for people who are considering a residential move, college attendance, tourist destinations, etc.

Methods for gathering information includes focus groups, informal interviews and web-based "voting." AFB learned early that an important criterion is the general "walkability" of the community. Walkable includes sidewalks that are present and in good condition; in snowy areas, sidewalks are plowed and snow is kept off walkways; and good street lighting is present at night, etc.

Currently, the plan is to identify "livable" communities in each of four major geographic regions of the U.S. Community size will also be considered. And what's important for students, and working-age adults, or seniors may be totally different.

To submit input, or learn more about the project, please e- mail livability@afb.net, visit www.afb.org/livability.asp or phone (800) 232-5463.

CHRISTIAN BOOKS

Denise Ferrin sells children's books with a Christian world view. She takes print books and adds braille to them. So she can charge the smallest amount possible, some are purchased on sale; others are used, and some have been donated. To view her list of books, go to www.millcreekmedia.com/books.

FROZEN FOOD DELIVERED TO YOUR HOME

Dinner is solved! A family-owned business, Schwan's has been delivering quality frozen foods directly to their customers' doorsteps in 48 states for more than 50 years. Deliveries are every two weeks or monthly. Schwan's has 300 frozen products for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Product selection includes complete meals or individual portions that go from freezer to table in 30 minutes or less. A list of the most interesting food items includes southern-style biscuits, smaller-sized steaks and delicious ice cream. There are no delivery or membership fees. Schwan's catalog is available in braille, 4-track cassette and ASCII text. Call toll-free (888) 724-9267, or visit their web site, www.schwans.com, to request a free catalog. Ask about the free dinner with a $20-purchase for new customers.

JUMBO SCRABBLE

Jumbo font Scrabble Protiles are made especially for people who are visually impaired. Letters are larger and bolder, yet still fit the grid of a standard deluxe Scrabble board. The tiles are white or school bus yellow, both with bold black letters. For more information, phone (718) 847-1322, e-mail Scrabblette@aol.com, or visit the web site, www.protiles.com.

LISTSERV FOR GARDENERS WHO ARE BLIND

If you are interested in gardening, this list is worth joining. Receive articles and newsletters of interest and discuss topics such as gardening company web sites and how accessible they are for screen readers; gardening in general and other problems unique to blind gardeners. To join the list, send a blank message to blind-gardeners-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

PHONE BILLS IN BRAILLE OR LARGE PRINT

If you are an AT&T customer and would like to have your monthly statement in braille or large print, call toll-free (800) 222-0300 to request this accommodation. It may take three billing cycles for the request to be fulfilled.

TEXTBOOK AND MAGAZINE RECORDING

The Catholic Guild for the Blind records all printed materials onto audio cassette in a prompt, professional and inexpensive manner. They specialize in recording school and college textbooks. They also will record instruction manuals, magazines, newspaper articles, novels, self-help books, etc. Orders are accepted from all addresses in the United States at a cost of $1.75 per cassette. For more information, please contact Eddie Williams at Catholic Guild for the Blind, phone (312) 236-8569, e-mail eddie@guildfortheblind.org.

CALIFORNIA CANES:NEW PRODUCT

Business owners Tami and Jeff Carmer, who are blind, have a new travel-lite, slim-line, folding cane, with tip of choice, denim/leather cane holder for $45, which includes shipping. Contact California Canes at 16263 Walnut Street, Hesperia, CA 92345, toll-free (866) 332-4883, fax (760) 956-7477, e-mail calif.canes@verizon.net, or check the web site, www.californiacanes.com.

TALKING TYPING TEACHER

The Talking Typing Teacher (TTT) is ideal for home or classroom. It features human speech in every part of the program. With the exception of having text-to-speech read your name and play back text typed into Workbook, every typing lesson or practice session is read aloud with clear, concise pre-recorded dialogue. Manuals are available in large print, braille, and on cassette at a cost of $99.95.

For more information, contact: MarvelSoft Enterprises, Inc., phone (800) 987-1231 ext. 3066, fax (800) 695-8271, e-mail craig@marvelsoft.com, or see the web site, http://www.marvelsoft.com.

WORDSMITH

Need a quick word lookup? E-mail wsmith@wordsmith.org. To find the definition of a word, type "define myword," in the subject line, with "myword" referring to the word whose definition you want to find. To find synonyms of a word, type synonym myword in the subject line. To unscramble an acronym, make the subject line: acronym myword. And anagrams? To find those, make the subject line read anagram myword. If you have access to the Web, you can access the Internet Anagram server at http://www.wordsmith.org/anagram/index.html.


Jan's Tasty Tidbits

by Jan Doremus


LAYERED BLT SALAD

  • 4 cups finely shredded lettuce
  • 1-1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup Hormel bacon bits
  • 4 slices reduced-calorie white bread, toasted and cubed
  • 1/3 cup (1-1/2 ounces) shredded Kraft reduced-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup Kraft fat-free Thousand Island dressing
  • 1/4 cup Kraft fat-free mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
  • In 8-inch square baking dish, layer first five ingredients in order listed.
  • In medium bowl, combine last three ingredients; spread evenly over top. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  • Makes 4 servings, 3 points each.

SKINNY CHILI

  • 1 pound lean or extra lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 16-ounce can kidney beans
  • 2 cups canned tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Brown meat; drain fat.
  • Add remaining ingredients. Simmer 1-1/2 hours.
  • Remove bay leaf. Makes 8 servings, 3 points each.

SWEET AND SOUR PORK

  • One 15-16 ounce can pineapple tidbits, canned in juice
  • 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons sesame or peanut oil
  • 1-1/2 pounds boneless pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen bell pepper strips
  • Drain pineapple, reserving 1/2 cup juice; set pineapple aside.
  • In small bowl, combine reserved juice, soy sauce, vinegar and cornstarch, stirring until cornstarch is dissolved.
  • Set aside. In wok, heat oil over high heat; add pork; stir-fry 5-10 minutes until well browned.
  • Stir in peppers and reserved pineapple.
  • Add reserved juice mixture; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes until pork is cooked through.
  • Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings, 4 points each.

PASTA AND CRAB SALAD

  • 4 cups pasta, cooked and chilled
  • 1/2 pkg crabmeat
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 head broccoli, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • Mix all ingredients in large bowl.
  • Let sit in refrigerator until thoroughly chilled. Makes 8 servings, 4 points each.

LENTIL AND VEGGIE SOUP

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2/3 cup dried celery
  • 1/3 cup diced white onion
  • 1/3 cup diced carrots
  • 3 tablespoons diced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1-1/4 cup dry brown lentils
  • 2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • In saucepan, heat oil over medium heat.
  • Sauté celery, onion, carrots, shallots and garlic until onion is translucent.
  • Add vegetable stock and lentils; cook, uncovered, until lentils are tender.
  • Before serving, add mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper.
  • Makes 4 servings, 5 points each.

DREAMSICLE

  • 1 pkg light orange Jell-O
  • 1 pkg fat-free instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 11-ounce can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 container light Coolwhip
  • Dissolve Jell-O in 1 cup boiling water; add 1 cup cold water. Let stand 5 minutes.
  • With mixer, add vanilla pudding powder to Jell-O mixture; add drained oranges; fold in Coolwhip.
  • 1 point per 1 cup.